A Solution to Plastic Water Bottles Is Here, and It’s Not What You Expected
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 09/17/2019 | 4 Minute Read
By now, we all know plastic water bottles are a big problem. While they do help provide a valuable resource to people who may otherwise not have safe drinking sources, discarded bottles create literal tons of waste. We’ll spare you the gloom and doom here (like that over 90% of the material isn’t recycled and all the plastic ever made in this world still exists), and instead give you the good news; there is an alternative.
What sort of magical material can do this, you might ask. Did it come from a newly-discovered plant in the Amazon, or did scientists at Harvard discover it in an experiment that went awry?
Nope. It’s good ol’ trusty aluminum.
Ever & Ever, bottled water from Vita Coco, uses a material that’s been around for over 100 years and can be infinitely recycled. In fact, nearly 75 percent of all the aluminum ever produced (even back from the 1800s) is still in production today.
“It was kind of this cool idea that there's this thing that's not new, that people have been using forever,” said Nathan Frank, Founding Partner and Head of Brand at Interesting Development, the agency behind the design. “It’s probably the best solution out there right now, aside from a reusable container, and we wanted to lean into that optimism and celebrate this thing that has been around for so long.”
Phillip Nessen, Head of Design at Interesting Development, stated, “We wanted to use this as an opportunity to hero aluminum, and we wanted to change everyone's thinking so they can recognize how much better it is than plastic.”
When you purchase and then recycle your Ever & Ever water bottle, it can go on to become something else—wind chimes, a flag pole, a pie tin, or even a new bottle of Ever & Ever—within 60 days. We’re lucky if a plastic bottle gets recycled more than once, if at all.
Interesting Development designed the water bottle to play on Ever & Ever’s infinite recyclability, so the name of the product on the can loops over and over (and over). “Another thing that was important here was that the actual aluminum it's made out of would have all these different lives, and we wanted to tell that story,” Phillip said. “With the design, we referred to things like detailed, wordy documents and newspapers with a little illustration to create a core part of the brand.”
“To just say something is recyclable is not a valuable story,” explained Nathan. “You don’t have to understand the entire process thoroughly, but there's a lot more to it than some arrows shaped like a triangle.”
Since aluminum water bottles aren’t the norm, Phillip and Nathan needed to ensure consumers would see Ever & Ever on the shelf and know it was, in fact, water. With plastic, you can tell what’s inside the bottles because they’re clear; aluminum, on the other hand, leaves a bit too much mystery.
“We definitely needed some blue on there,” admitted Phillip, “because it was very important to telegraph that what was inside there was water. But we also really love aluminum, so we wanted to have an area that showcased that raw, exposed metal, too. We ended up with a bit of a compromise where it had lots of this refreshing blue, but we still had this key part of it.”
And while the final result strikes just the right balance, they both advised that aluminum does leave designers with a somewhat limited color palette. You can’t mix four process colors to make full-color illustrations—a significant change from the ability to do six- or seven-color printing with other materials.
“It was interesting to get faced with a limitation that informs what the design looks like,” said Phillip.
So has Ever & Ever solved the problem that is plastic? It’s certainly a step in the right direction. If our culture continues to have packaged goods, we need to get into a more eco-conscious mindset—and that’s not going to happen overnight. Rather than do nothing, Ever & Ever helps consumers inch forward to a better place.
“There are a lot of things right now that are masquerading and saying they’re recyclable,” Phillip mentioned. “It might make you feel good to put it in the recycling bin, but that doesn’t actually do anything. So the more we can shift to these products that do what they say, it’s a lot better for everyone.”
“All they have to do is shift their hand over an inch towards a bottle that is aluminum instead of plastic,” Nathan added. “It will make a huge difference and move more people towards a better solution in the long run.”